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State v. Catchings

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

February 7, 2017


          Argued September 19, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk, White, J.

          Laila Haswell, senior assistant public defender, for the appellant (defendant).

          Rita M. Shair, senior assistant state's attorney, with whom were Richard Colangelo, state's attorney, and, on the brief, Paul J. Ferencek, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Beach, Sheldon and Lavery, Js. [*]


          LAVERY, J.

         The defendant, Marcellus Catchings, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of attempt to commit assault in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 (a) (2) and 53a-59 (a) (1).[1] On appeal, the defendant claims that there was insufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt his intent to inflict serious physical injury on another person, as required for a conviction of attempt to commit assault in the first degree. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. In the early morning hours of March 18, 2011, Patricia Beverly was pulling into the driveway of a pool hall in Stamford when her vehicle was struck by another vehicle. Beverly exited her car to confront the other driver, but the other driver drove off. The defendant, who was friends with the driver whose vehicle had struck Beverly's vehicle, pulled into the pool hall a couple of minutes later. The defendant was heavily intoxicated, [2] and was illegally in possession of a loaded nine millimeter semiautomatic pistol without a permit. Prior to getting out of his car, the defendant cocked his gun, not noticing that there was already a cartridge in the chamber, which caused the gun to jam and become temporarily inoperable.[3] At some point after exiting his car, the defendant began ‘‘waving'' his gun around and then aimed the gun at Beverly. Beverly retreated around the corner of the building and called 911. After learning that someone had called the police, the defendant put his gun back into his waistband and called a friend to obtain a ride before the police arrived.

         Officer William Garay of the Stamford Police Department responded to the scene and spotted the defendant walking down a nearby street while talking on his cell phone. Recognizing that the defendant fit the description of the person who reportedly was waving a gun, Garay exited his marked police cruiser near where the defendant was walking, shined a spotlight on the defendant, and instructed the defendant to show his hands. The defendant recognized Garay as a police officer but, because he was carrying an illegal firearm, ignored Garay's commands and continued walking. Garay drew his gun, aimed it at the defendant, and ordered him to stop and show his hands. The defendant again ignored Garay and kept walking. Garay began advancing toward the defendant with his gun drawn and shouted for the defendant to get on the ground. The defendant then broke into a run, and Garay chased after him.

         At some point during the chase, Officer Luis Vidal of the Stamford Police Department arrived on the scene and attempted to block the defendant's path of escape by driving his cruiser onto the sidewalk at an angle in front of where the defendant was running. Garay, who was positioned behind and to the left of the defendant, could not see the defendant's right hand as he ran, which was ‘‘somewhere in his stomach and waistband . . . area.'' Just as Vidal stopped and exited his cruiser, the defendant, while still running, suddenly removed his gun from his waistband, ‘‘turned toward his right'' with the gun in his right hand, and pointed the gun directly at Garay's midsection. Garay, who was about fifteen feet away, thought that the defendant was going to shoot him, and fired a shot at the defendant that missed. As Garay fired the shot, the defendant ‘‘[a]lmost simultaneously'' ‘‘dropped'' his gun to the ground.

         Garay dropped his gun and tackled the defendant to the ground. A violent struggle ensued. The defendant pushed Garay off him and struggled to get away, ignored Garay's repeated demands to stop resisting, and evaded Garay's attempts to handcuff him by lying on his stomach and clenching his hands beneath his chest. Vidal ‘‘jumped on'' the defendant to help Garay restrain him. Officer Faruk Yilmaz of the Stamford Police Department arrived moments later and noticed the defendant's handgun, which was in a jammed and temporarily inoperable condition, [4] lying about a foot away from where the struggle was taking place. Yilmaz removed it from the area before assisting with the defendant. Eventually, the three officers subdued and arrested the defendant.[5]

         The defendant was subsequently charged with multiple offenses, including attempt to commit assault in the first degree. See footnote 1 of this opinion. On March 14, 2013, the jury found the defendant guilty on all counts. The trial court thereafter rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, and imposed a total effective sentence of fifteen years imprisonment and five years of special parole. This appeal followed.

         The defendant claims that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of attempt to commit assault in the first degree because no reasonable jury could have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to inflict serious physical injury on Garay. In support of this claim, the defendant argues that ‘‘[t]he simple act of pointing a gun, without any accompanying assertive behavior that could permit an inference of specific intent to seriously injure [Garay] by shooting him, is too equivocal an act to prove intent.'' In response, the state contends that it introduced additional evidence, beyond the defendant's mere act of pointing the gun at Garay, to establish the defendant's intent, including the defendant's conduct prior to the encounter with Garay and the fact that the defendant raised his gun at Garay while attempting to resist arrest. We agree with the state.[6]

         ‘‘In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction we apply a two-part test. First, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict. Second, we determine whether upon the facts so construed and the inferences reasonably drawn therefrom the [finder of fact] reasonably could have concluded that the cumulative force of the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . In evaluating evidence, the trier of fact is not required to accept as dispositive those inferences that are consistent with the defendant's innocence. . . . The trier may draw whatever inferences from the evidence or facts established by the evidence it deems to be reasonable and logical. . . . This does not require that each subordinate conclusion established by or inferred ...

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